P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD-BJP combine frustrated, says CM
Only 4 MLAs to be dropped from renominated list
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today claimed that the SAD-BJP combine had become panicky and it was copying the “ Vikas Yatra model” of the ruling Congress in frustration.

“I have information that the SAD-BJP leadership is completely jolted by the big response the Punjab Vikas Yatra got in the areas perceived to be Akali strongholds, especially in the Malwa belt”, Capt Amarinder Singh said this on phone from Delhi while talking to The Tribune.

“As the SAD-BJP combine is losing ground in rural areas, it was trying to follow what the ruling Congress was doing in the state. But there will be no response to the yatra planned by Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal and Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu”, he claimed.

“People came to our yatra because we have done a lot for them in the past four years. However, as Mr Sukhbir Singh and Mr Sidhu have no agenda for the people of the state they will face frustration. No one, except for a few of their camp followers, will turn up to watch their yatra”, he claimed.

He alleged that both Mr Sidhu and Mr Sukhbir Singh were tainted politicians and would find it difficult to face people.

Both Mr Sukhbir Singh and Mr Sidhu have planned to hold a yatra through various parts of the state from January 15. They will focus on the youth and had named their yatra as “ Youth for change”.

Asked about the allocation of party ticket and the number of sitting MLAs and ministers to be dropped from the nominated candidates in the coming Assembly elections, Capt Amarinder Singh said after the fourth phase of the Punjab Vikas Yatra and on the basis of latest survey reports, the entire issue of selecting candidates had been reviewed.

He said: “On the basis of the latest review of the party performance, we have reached the conclusion that there will be no need to drop many sitting MLAs. Only four or five MLAs have to be dropped from the list of candidates to be nominated. Earlier, there was a proposal to drop 25 MLAs or so.

“In the past two months, a good number of party MLAs have improved their position in their constituencies to a large extent. I have seen their performance during the yatra and in the light of their latest performance the entire issue has been re-looked into”, said Capt Amarinder Singh.

Commenting on quitting of the party by Mr Raj Khurana, a party MLA from Rajpura, Capt Amarinder Singh said his leaving the party would make no difference. Mr Khurana was in touch with the SAD leader, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, for the past several months and I had information about him in this regard. “ That is why I did not allocate any funds to him under the Punjab Nirman Fund for distribution in the Rajpura constituency”, said Capt Amarinder Singh.“


Barsat resigns from Cong
Recommended as Information Commissioner
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
Mr Harchand Singh Barsat, Political Secretary to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has resigned from the primary membership of the Congress party and also from the office he was holding in the organisation.

Mr Barsat’s name has been recommended for appointment as state Information Commissioner in the office of the Information Commission, Punjab. To hold such a post one should not be a member of any political outfit nor hold any political office. A few days ago, Mr Barsat’s case for appointment as Commissioner was sent to the Governor, Punjab. However, the Governor’s office has asked the state government to clarify whether Mr Barsat was a member of any political party or not.

Mr Barsat, who has been close to the Chief Minister, was a contender for the party ticket from the Anandpur Sahib Vidhan Sabha segment in the coming Assembly elections. He had been working in that constituency for the past few years.

However, it appears that the party’s top brass has informed him that there will be no possibility of nominating him as party candidate from Anandpur Sahib. As an alternative he has been offered the post of the Information Commissioner, which is on a par with the post of the Chief Secretary as far as status is concerned. He will be entitled for an official car, house and other facilities.

It appears that Mr Barsat for the time being has made up his mind to accept the appointment of the Information Commissioner.

However, whether his name will be cleared by the Governor or not, remains to be seen.

The newly appointed Information Commissioners will take oath of their office on January 2, it is learnt.


High command to decide on ticket to youths: Congress
Tribune News Service

Ropar, December 28
The Congress is prepared for the forthcoming Assembly elections. “We will not ask for tickets for youths. It’s the Congress high command that will decide about the tickets to be given to the deserving young candidates to contest the coming Assembly elections, state youth president Vijayender Singla, said today. He was heading the “Sankalap yatra” which passed through Morinda, Chamkaur Sahib, Ropar, Nurpurbedi and concluded at Nangal at about 7 pm here.

He said the idea of the yatra that begun on December 12 was to spread awareness among the people of the state about the various development work started by the state government during its tenure.

He added that the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleagues were busy getting mega projects for the state and carrying out other development works.

Accusing the Akali Dal for misleading the people of the state, he said the Akali Dal had no vision and did not work for the development of the state.

Youths in large number had joined the rally on their motorcycles and cars which was flagged off by Cabinet Minister Jagmohan Kan from Morinda. The District president of the Congress, Dr Ramesh Dutt Sharma, welcomed the rally at Nurpurbedi, the president, Municipal Council, Ropar, Mr Ashok Bahi, did so at Ropar.


Ginners strike brings cotton procurement to halt
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 28
Protesting against the state government’s dilly-dallying approach on the withdrawal of infrastructure development cess, about 275 cotton ginners under the banner of the Punjab Cotton Factory and Ginners Association have stopped purchasing cotton across the state.

The strike has brought the procurement of cotton to a grinding halt.

Addressing a press conference here today, the association’s president, Mr Bhagwan Bansal, said about 2 lakh quintals of cotton arrived in the state’s market today and not a smaller quantity of it was purchased. He said: “We have held three rounds of talks with the government on the issue and after being fed up with its false promises we have resorted to strike”.

Mr Bansal said they held two meetings with state Finance Minister Surinder Singla and the third one with six top officials of the state, including the chief secretary and principal secretary to the chief minister. He said a fortnight back the government had promised to shortly withdraw the 1 per cent Punjab Infrastructure Development Cess being charged from them, but nothing had been done so far.

He said the time was running out for the government, as the code of conduct was expected anytime now and the last Cabinet meeting of the government would take place on January 2. He said if agencies like Markfed and CCI would step into the market, they would not lend their premises to them for the storage of cotton.

Mr Bansal said they would hold a meeting with the farmers’ bodies on Saturday so as to make their position clear to the farming community. He claimed that the Haryana Factory and Ginners Association had also come out in their support and it might also go on strike. He lamented that no other state government was charging any development cess from cotton ginners.

He said the ginners in Bathinda district were asked to pay the cess from a back date as the order was implemented from April 1, 2005. “How the government can expect a ginner to pay previous year’s cess running to the tune of lakhs,” he wondered.

Meanwhile, market watchers here felt that though cotton factories were not facing any closure right now, the ginners were on a sticky wicket. They opined that the success of their strike would depend on how far the farmers could take the delay in cotton procurement.

“If the farmer bodies mounted pressure on the government and the latter gave in early then it would benefit the ginners. On the contrary, if the government decided to take the factory owners head on they would be in for a trouble,” they said.


500 farmers to court arrest
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 28
Nearly 500 farmers belonging to various organisations of farmers will court arrest at Deputy Commissioner’s office on January 1.

Announcing this Kisan Sangharsh Committee convener, Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu said here today the government, instead of redressing their grievances and long standing demands, was trying to muzzle their dissent by oppressive measures including police lathi charge and in firing on peacefully demonstrating farmers community.

He said the agitation launched on December 20 by organising dharna and blocking Rail traffic to focus the government’s attention towards their charter of demands which include waiving of bank interest, electricity bills and debt relief for small and marginal farmers who were forced to commit suicides due to debt besides the cancellation of false cases registered against many of farmers.

Mr Pannu pointed out the government should come out with a special economic package to take them out of the debt trap. Instead the government was suppressing their voice and thwarting plans for peaceful agitation. He asserted the farmers were willing to go ahead with ‘jail bharo’ movement and to save the situation the government must solve the matter.


Rs 76,000 electricity ‘shock’ for Zirakpur resident
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Zirakpur, December 28
Electricity supply may be in shambles in Zirakpur but when it comes to giving shocks to residents, the Punjab State Electricity Board(PSEB) authorities are second to none.

Such a shock has been received by Harvinder Singh Dhaliwal, a resident of Sarvmangal Housing Complex on the Lohgarh Road here, who has been served an electricity bill amounting to Rs 76,740 for a period from April 3 to September 17 this year. And this was despite the fact that the electricity meter stopped working in July, 2006.

Dhaliwal claimed that he had written to the department to replace the meter in July but no action was taken. Instead of replacing the meter, the inflated bill was issued, he alleged.

Dhaliwal said it was improbable his family consumed 18,000 units in a span of six months. Both Dhaliwal and his wife are working and his son studies in Patiala.

Tired with the delaying tactics of the department, Dhaliwal now plans to move the consumer court.


Flashback 2006
Pathankot airport, Kathlore bridge major developments
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, December 28
The year passing by can be termed as a period of development for the district.

Two major projects, the Pathankot civil airport and Kathlore bridge, were completed in this year.

Though political parties had been clamouring for taking the credit both projects would contribute significantly to the development of the area.

The year ended on a sad note, with five-time MP Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder’s death.

Flights from the Pathankot civil airport started in November this year.

Horticulturists and industrialists of the area were waiting for commercial operations to begin at the airport to send their products across the country.

The Kathlore bridge had been demand of residents of Narot and Bamiyal blocks.

The construction of the bridge was started about two years ago and it was completed and inaugurated this year.

This being the last year of the Congress government rule, the district was flooded with funds as it had 10 Congress MLAs.

The government failed to attract industry to the border district.

Union Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar had announced that the food processing industry would come to the district.

Once a machine tool industry centre, Batala was reeling with closed units.


Verka stakes claim to Cong ticket
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 28
Dr Raj Kumar Verka, parliamentary secretary, today staked claim to the Congress ticket for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, vacated by BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu.

The development came a day after Kerala Governor R.L. Bhatia announced that he was not in the electoral fray as he had retired from active politics.

Dr Verka claimed that all MLAs and councillors had unanimously decided to extend support to him.

Mr Joginder Pal Dhingra, president of the Amritsar district Congress committee, said it had unanimously decided to support the candidature of Dr Verka.

He said it would soon propose the name of Dr Verka to Ms Sonia Gandhi.

Dr Verka said they would accept the order of the party high command.

Mr Surinder Arjun, former media adviser to Mr Bhatia, alleged that Mr Bhatia had betrayed the people of the city and the Congress by surrendering the party’s interests to the RSS-BJP combine.

He said Mr Bhatia had created a vacuum as he had not authorised anyone to contest the byelections to Lok Sabha seat from Amritsar.


Raninder doles out free power connections
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, December 28
With Assembly elections round the corner, the state government is leaving no stone unturned to lure the electorate, especially in the Malwa region.

Congress state general secretary Raninder Singh, after launching the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana in four districts, today announced 12,000 free power connections for BPL families at a rally here today.

He said Rs 2 crore had been allocated by the state government to make free power connections available to 12,000 BPL families in the district.

He also took the opportunity to leash out at SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal, accusing him of having followed anti-state policies and doing nothing for the welfare of the poor.

Some local leaders approached Mr Raninder Singh, seeking his support in getting party ticket for a senior party leader, to which he said it was for the high command to decide.



6 MC employees found absent
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 28
Local municipal council (MC) president Simrat Rana Punia found the executive officer (EO), two junior engineers, an accountant, a works supervisor and a peon absent from duty when she checked the attendance of the staff at its office here this morning.

She issued letters to the employees found absent from duty, seeking explanation from them within two days.

A municipal councillor said the senior vice-president of the council had written a letter to the EO some days back, stating that he left headquarters almost daily, which caused inconvenience to the public to get routine work done, and accusing the EO of ignoring various works.

EO Ranbir Singh said over the telephone that the job of an EO and some other officials was a 24-hour job, including field job, so they could go to the field anytime.

He further said whenever he would receive any letter about his absence from duty, he would give a reply.

He said the council president could initiate action against non-provincial cadre staff as the council was their appointing authority.


One killed in road accident
Tribune News Service

Banur, December 28
One person was killed and three injured when a Scorpio collided head-on with an Indigo car at Jandpur, near here, today. According to sources, Santokh (60) died on the spot and Sucha Singh, who was driving the Scorpio, was seriously injured in the accident. Sucha Singh has been admitted to the Government Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh. Nachhattar Singh and Balbir Singh Bedi, who were travelling in the Indigo, were also injured and have been admitted to the Civil Hospital, Rajpura. Rs 50,000 is also reported missing from the Indigo.


EO complains against 4 for erecting cell towers
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 28
An Executive Officer of the local municipal council has asked the police to register a case against three persons, including an officer of the Spice Telecom, for installing mobile towers at two places. These towers have been installed in violation of the orders passed by the District Magistrate.

Mr Ranbir Singh, Executive Officer of the council, has lodged a complaint against Nand Lal, Ahuja Cloth Store, Sunami Gate, Sangrur, Om Parkash, a resident of Patiala Gate opposite Dharam Arath Langar, Sangrur, and Mohammad Amroz, area in charge, Spice Telecommunications Limited, Mohali, for installing towers atop buildings of Nand Lal and Om Parkash in violation of the District Magistrate’s order dated May 28.

Mr Ranbir Singh said the District Magistrate had ordered telephone and mobile companies to obtain NOCs from his office before installing the towers. He lice to also initiate action against other officers, responsible for the installation of the towers, of the company for the violation of the orders of the District Magistrate.


Power supply to 30 villages suspended
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 28
Electricity supply to more than 30 villages in this area was suspended yesterday night due to the theft of high-tension wires. The supply was restored at 3 p.m. today, sources said.

The miscreants used a tractor to pull down 25-ft high tower near Gumjal village to escape electric shock and decamped with wires used for supplying power to Rajasthan. The PSEB was using this transmission line to supply electricity to more than 30 villages from the Kallarkhera subdivision. Preliminary investigation revealed that the miscreants escaped to Rajasthan after stealing the wires. PSEB officials were expected to arrive from the Muktsar circle office tomorrow to assess the loss, the sources added.


PSGPC chief gets invitation

Amritsar, December 28
For the first time, the Delhi Shiromani Akali Dal has invited the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president, Mr Bishan Singh, to campaign in favour of his party for the general election of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, slated for January 14 next.

The PSGPC chief said he was expecting to cross to India from Wagah in January in case he got visa in time.

The PSGPC chief said that the Pakistan Evacuee Property Trust Board had decided to complete the expansion of Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib by Baisakhi next year. Mr Bishan said the golden palanquin taken from New Delhi to Nankana Sahib had been placed at the ‘Shaheedi Asthan’ that housed Dewan Hall so that the devotees could have open ‘darshan’. — TNS


Dharna shifted

Abohar, December 28
The three-day dharna by the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta Ugrahan and the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha at Burjmuhar village was shifted to the subdivisional complex today as railway authorities resolved to suspend earthwork for the Abohar-Fazilka rail link.

Hundreds of women and men participated in the rally held in front of the subdivisional complex this afternoon and raised slogans in support of their demands.

The main demand was compensation for the labourers who had been in possession of the government seed farm land, rendered landless with its acquisition for laying the rail track. — OC


Journalist dead
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, December 28
Mr Bhan Singh Khoji (95) Editor of the weekly Punjabi ‘Sacha Aggu’ died here after a prolonged illness. The local district unit of the Chandigarh-Punjab Union of Journalists at a meeting held under the president-ship of Mr Jasmail Singh Cheeda, condoled the death of the journalist.


3 youths loot petrol station, flee in owner’s car
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 28
Three persons late last night looted an HP petrol station near Gobindgarh, 8 km from here, on the Abohar-Malout road and injured an employee before speeding away in the Maruti Zen car of the proprietor. They abandoned their own car as its engine failed to start.

Three unidentified persons came from the Malout side in the Maruti Zen

(GJ 02 K 1707) and asked Rameshwar, an employee on duty, to fill petrol. When asked to pay the bill, the culprits started beating him up and pushed him into a cabin where other employees Anil and Bajrang were sleeping.

They looted Rs 49,175 from the cash box and locked the employees in the cabin. They sped away with two mobile phone sets in the car (PB 15 C 1684) of Deepak Mittal, owner of the filling station.

Sources said the employees came out by breaking the window of the cabin and informed the proprietor. Rameshwar was admitted to the Civil Hospital here. The Sadar police rushed to the filling station.

Mr Arpit Shukla, Senior Superintendent of Police, said Mr Kashmir Singh Gill SP (D) was personally monitoring the investigation. Some vital clues were available from the car and mobile phone numbers left by the culprits on the spot.


2 women jump before train, die
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 28
Two women aged 35-40 were killed when they reportedly jumped before 356 Dn. Sriganganagar Ambala train near Qabarwala village on the Abohar-Malout section yesterday, GRP sources said. The train had left Abohar nearly two hours late. The women dressed in light blue and green wearing semi-woollen shawls were waiting for the train behind shrubs, witnesses indicated. An announcement was made this morning from nearby Gurdwaras to establish the identity of the victims, sources added.

In another incident Puja (21) college student, reportedly committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling fan inside her house at 22 PS village in neighbouring Sriganganagar area yesterday, sources said today. She had not gone to the college due-to winter break, family members explained.

In an accident Sunil Batra a farmer was killed as the scooter he was driving rammed into a tractor near Dangarkhera village 8 km from here on NH 10 yesterday evening. His pillion-riding wife Saroj was also injured. Family sources said the couple was going to Khippanwali village where they own land. High beam light from vehicles coming from opposite direction reportedly disconcerted the scooterist. The police has registered a case under Section 304 A of the IPC.


Man killed, son injured
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, December 28
Gurmukh Singh (42) of nearby Mattewal village, 8 km from here was murdered and his son Gursewak Singh injured seriously late last night.

They were attacked by four persons of the same village due to some dispute in the day time in mela organised in the village.

The police has registered a case under Sections 302, 323, 34 of the IPC. The accused have been identified as Pargat Singh, Jatinder Singh, Amrik Singh and Sukhdev Singh. The accused attacked him with sharp-edged weapons. The victim succumbed on the way to the hospital. Gursewak is admitted to local civil hospital where his condition is said to be out of danger.


Two posing as ministers arrested

Gurdaspur, December 28
The Batala police arrested two persons Ranjot Singh and Lakhbir Singh on the charge of calling up district officials in name of Union Ministers.

SDM Batala Sandeep Rishi said Lakhbir Singh had a property case that was to be adjudicated by his court. I used to receive the calls in the name of Daljit Pathania a secretary of Union State Minister for industry Ashwani Kumar to decide the case in favour of Lakhbir Singh.

Later the accused rang him up posing as a Union Minister for State and directed to decide the case in favour of one of the accused.

The accused also rang up the Deputy Commissioner Gurdaspur Vivek Pratap Singh posing as Union Minister for Home Shiv Raj Patil for the case. The accused was calling the administration officials from different mobile numbers. The SDM Batala then called the accused on the pretext of discussing the case posing as if he was acting at the behest of Union Ministers. And was subsequently nabbed by cops. — TNS


Flesh trade racket busted

Amritsar, December 28
Acting on a tip-off, the Majitha road police has nabbed four persons, including three women, allegedly for running flesh trade racket. The police has registered a case under relevant sections of the IPC.

According to information, after getting secret information, the police raided a house from where the racket was operated. Police sources said the racket was run by Shama, a dancer from Ludhiana. The other accused who used to bring the ‘customers’ was identified as Rana of the same area. — OC


2 held for rape, minor’s murder
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 28
The police has arrested two persons in connection with the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl whose body was found at Shakti Nagar here a few days back.

Those arrested have been identified as Anil and Ashok Kumar, migrant labourers from Bihar. Police sources said the accused had raped the victim and concealed her body in bushes after mutilating her face with a brick.

During interrogation, they confessed to the crime on the night of December 19/20.


Panel to boost food processing industries
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 28
The Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries has formed a task force for boosting the growth of food processing industries in the state.

A 32-member panel will have 18 non-official members on its roll, a letter received here today stated Mr M. Jayaraman, Under Secretary in the ministry, said the task force would suggest steps for the identification, development and propagation of processable varieties of agricultural commodities, assess raw material’s availability for processing, status of various food processing industries, identify key reasons for underdevelopment of this sector, evolve strategies for campaigns/marketing to promote consumption of processed foods.

The task force will also suggest steps for food safety, standard testing facilities, establish linkage of technology institutes/research organisations with the industry, evaluate current state of infrastructure for entrepreneurs, define role of financial institutions/ NGOs, farmers organisation and cooperatives.

The term of the task force will be of two years. It will hold quarterly meetings and draw an action plan and submit periodic reports to the Central Government.

Mr Mangat Rai Chayal, Mr Rajiv Kawatra, Mr Satish Karkara Patiala, Mr Gurraj Singh Rupana, Mr Harpal Singh Sherpur Bet, Mr Subhash Kataria, Mr R.S. Arneja, Mr Parminder Singh Gill, Mr Narinder K. Singla, Mr Malvinder Singh Doraha, Mr Kirpal Singh Aujla and Mr B.L. Malhotra, Mr Jagjit Singh Kapoor, Mr Avtar Singh Sandhu Gurdaspur, Mr Amarjit Singh Tikka and Mr Raj K.Singh, were the non-officials members.


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